Lebanese Private Hospitals Close Doors for One-Day Strike Over Gov’t Nonpayment
By Staff, Agencies
Most private hospitals across Lebanon closed their doors in protest Friday, saying they are “breathing their last breath” due to the long-running failure of the government to pay them.
“This is not a strike. This is to raise awareness on the hospital’s situation,” said Sleiman Haroun, the head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals.
The government owes $1.3 billion to hospitals, the unpaid balance building up each year since 2011.
“We are not able to pay importers [of medical equipment and medicine] because we are not getting paid by the state,” Haroun said.
A number of private hospitals in the Metn area carried out a one hour protest under the slogan “We are at our last breath," the state-run National News Agency reported Friday.
Private hospitals in Akkar also stopped their operations, only accepting emergency cases Friday, in line with the one-day strike. Doctors and staff member protested in in various hospitals in towns in Akkar, saying their hospitals are in danger of being shuttered for good, according to NNA.
In Nabatieh, private hospitals committed to the one-day strike as well, with staff members protesting to warn that things are getting worse, the NNA reported.
The Syndicate of Private Hospitals, the Order of Physicians and a group of importers of medical supplies and equipment said last week that hospitals would carry out a one-day strike Friday, closing to patients with the exception of emergency services, chemotherapy and dialysis.
Haroun said about 10 hospitals have already stopped receiving cancer patients for chemotherapy treatments as “medicine importers are imposing conditions on hospitals regarding the payments.”
Lebanon has 121 private hospitals with 12,578 beds, and 32 public hospitals with 2,653 beds – a split of roughly 5-to-1 private to public.
As early as June of this year, private hospitals have been sounding the alarm over the unpaid balance, with some saying they had been forced to reduce services.
“If they do not want to listen, we will reach a time where patients would come to us but we cannot treat them,” Haroun added.